MEASURES will be taken to cut truancy at Darlington schools after a report revealed that many parents were allowing their children to skip lessons.

A review group was established by Darlington Borough Council to look at ways to improve attendance at the borough's school.

The group's report will be presented to the council next week and will reveal the real extent of truancy in the borough.

The report shows that non-attendance at primary schools in the town is almost seven per cent, and at secondary schools it is ten per cent. The aim is to reduce this figure to five per cent for primary schools and seven per cent for secondary.

One of the main problems identified by the group was the number of children who were not at school because their parents wanted to take them on holiday during term time.

There were also concerns about children who were absent from school with long term illnesses although the schools were never shown any medical evidence of ill health.

In a report to the council, following a visit to McMullen House in Darlington which provides education for children permanently excluded from mainstream schools, the review group questioned parent's commitment to education.

The report said: "We were surprised that the causes and effects of truancy were principally due to the apathy of parents who simply do not insist that their children go to school and often collude in their unauthorised absences.

"Naturally some children deceive their parents into thinking that they are going to school but many more are allowed to stay away because their parents do not insist that they attend and cannot see the long term consequences of truancy."

The group has called for truancy to be treated much more seriously and has suggested a borough-wide publicity campaign to try to combat the increasing problem.

There have also been calls for more support for families with problem children and more high profile prosecutions of parents who are guilty of failing to send their children to school.

The group said: "The Local Education Authority is continuing to take parents to court when the issues become severe and this will develop further.

"There is a need for parents to take some responsibility and to work in partnership with the school, the LEA and other agencies to ensure that they send their children to school."